Spring Arts Guide: Theater

Some high culture, including heroin use and terrorism.

Needles and Opium
March 30 – April 23, at A.C.T., act-sf.org

It’s 1949, and Miles Davis is on heroin in Paris. Meanwhile, Jean Cocteau is riding an opium high in New York City. Québécois director Robert Lepage juxtaposes their stories in a giant cube suspended over the stage. From the man who conceived of Cirque du Soleil’s Totem, expect a surrealistic approach to the use of space coupled with large, cryptic ideas about the creative process taking place inside the minds of these two distinct artists.    

The Town Hall Affair
April 6-16, at Z Space, zspace.org

The Wooster Group returns to Z Space to reimagine Chris Hegedus and D.A. Pennebaker’s 1971 documentary, Town Bloody Hall. The film captured a pivotal moment in the Women’s Liberation movement, featuring heated, raucous debates between Norman Mailer and feminist luminaries like Diana Trilling, Jill Johnston, and Germaine Greer. Under the direction of Elizabeth LeCompte, the New York theater group performs the release of all those repressed female energies. Nixon’s America was about to get a wake-up call.

Autobiography of a Terrorist
April 14 – May 7, a Golden Thread Production at the Potrero Stage, goldenthread.org

The writer Saïd Sayrafiezadeh grew up Jewish and Iranian-American during the Iran hostage crisis. He chronicled this dual identity in his 2009 memoir, When Skateboards Will Be Free, and followed that book with a group of acclaimed short stories, Brief Encounters With the Enemy. Now, with this play’s world premiere, Sayrafiezadeh continues to explore the complexities of living in an America that has trouble parsing anything written beneath a sensationalized headline.  

The Encounter
April 25 – May 7, at the Curran Theatre, sfcurran.com

When National Geographic photographer Loren McIntyre got lost in a region of Brazil that was thought to be unpopulated, he encountered an indigenous tribe in the hinterlands. More than a decade later, Petru Popescu wrote about McIntyre’s 1969 adventures in his Amazon Beaming. (As McIntyre relays his story, the tribe turned out to be telepathic.) Enter actor-director Simon McBurney. His solo performance, set in the Amazon rainforest, contends with McIntyre’s story through the use of 3D audio technology and a chilling thought to mull over: “Solitude is a story that we, in the Western world, tell ourselves.”

My Name is Rachel Corrie
April 27 – May 14, at the Magic Theatre, magictheatre.org

An activist: That’s the easiest way to define and categorize Rachel Corrie. She was someone with good intentions who wanted to see injustices corrected. Reading her journals and letters, from which this play is taken, she becomes a more nuanced character. Katharine Viner and the late Alan Rickman edited her writings and first staged the play in London in 2005, two years after Corrie’s death. My Name is reminds us of the young woman’s life, even if the facts surrounding her death on the Gaza Strip remain conflicted and unclear.

The Events
May 4-28, at the Shotgun Theater, shotgunplayers.org

Last year, the journalist Åsne Seierstad published a nonfiction account of the events leading up to July 22, 2011, the day Anders Behring Breivik killed 77 people in Norway. One of Us: The Story of a Massacre in Norway — And Its Aftermath constructed the smallest details of that tragedy in the manner of Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood. Scottish dramatist David Greig also chose to write about the tragedy in his play from 2013, bravely staging it again a year later in Norway. Greig, instead of creating an omniscient point of view, focuses on one woman’s search for an impossible question to answer: Why did this happen?

Monsoon Wedding
May 5 – June 25, at Berkeley Rep, berkeleyrep.org

Mira Nair’s breakthrough film (from 2001) was a jubilant quasi-musical teeming with vibrant colors and family drama. In this stage adaptation, with 21 songs by the Hindi composer Vishal Bhardwaj, Monsoon Wedding is now a full-fledged musical. Eight years in the making, Nair will test her directorial vision on Bay Area audiences before the show travels to Broadway. No word yet if the dress code will require raincoats and Wellingtons.   

Sordid Lives
May 12 – June 11, at New Conservatory Theatre Center, nctcsf.org

The so-bad-it’s-camp 2000 movie Sordid Lives was the tittering brainchild of playwright and screenwriter Del Shores, who’s since made a cottage industry out of the Ingram family chronicles. He managed to produce 12 episodes of Sordid Lives, a LOGO TV series prequel, plus a new movie, A Very Sordid Wedding, with Academy Award-winner Whoopi Goldberg. But the sacred source of the filmed material was, in fact, a play that was first produced in 1996. And what better place than a San Francisco stage to take in Shores’ queer-eyed look at small-town Texan lives?

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